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U.N., Aid Groups Highlight Mass Exodus From Violence In Cote d’Ivoire

Up to one million people in Cote d’Ivoire have fled escalating violence in the city of Abidjan, Melissa Fleming, a spokesperson for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), said at a news briefing in Geneva on Friday, Reuters reports.

“The massive displacement in Abidjan and elsewhere is being fuelled by fears of all-out war,” Fleming said. “Available estimates are that between 700,000 and one million could now be displaced,” she said (Nebehay, 3/25). “Escalating insecurity following a disputed presidential election Nov. 28 has led to ‘a sharp rise in displacement,'” according to Fleming, Bloomberg Businessweek reports (Freedman, 3/25).

UNHCR said it plans to “dispatch an independent international commission of inquiry to probe allegations of serious abuse and rights violations going on in the country, including reports of mass graves and extrajudicial killings,” according to VOA News (Ritchey, 3/25).  

“The deteriorating security situation and the escalation in the use of heavy weapons has had a serious toll on the lives and well-being of the Ivorian people,” Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Atul Khare said in a statement to the U.N. Security Council, U.N. News Centre writes. “The human rights situation is very grave, with a high number of human rights violations reported,” he said (3/25).  

Also on Friday, Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) said the violence has affected access to health care in the country, Agence France-Presse/News24 reports.

“Some health centres have been looted, others don’t function at all, or barely, due to a lack of medical personnel but also medicine and medical equipment,” said Renzo Fricke, MSF emergency coordinator.

“Facing the same insecurity as the rest of the population, health care workers are fleeing medical facilities in the conflict areas,” MSF said in a press release. In the only Abidjan hospital still operating, “medical teams received 273 emergency patients in three weeks, 225 of whom suffered bullet injuries,” the statement said. “Women and children have died from their injuries” (3/25).